Open D Tuning is possibly the most popular open tuning due to the massive number of songs in Open D. This open tuning is popular with blues guitarists and is great fun to use with a guitar slide.
In this guide, you will learn
- How to tune your guitar in Open D
- Easy chord shapes you can play in Open D Tuning
- A printable PDF with chord charts
- Scale diagrams for Open D
- Great songs in Open D tuning with Guitar TAB
Once you read through this guide, check out my Ultimate Guide to Alternate Tunings to learn about other popular open tunings as well as some weird alternate tunings worth trying out.
If you want to try and use a guitar slide in Open D tuning, check out this lesson for some tips on how to get started.
How to Tune Your Guitar in Open D Tuning
To tune your guitar into Open D, you need to change your strings to D A D F# A D.
First, you need to lower the low sixth string to D. Leave the A and D strings, then lower the G string down to F#. Lower the B string to A and the high E string down to D.
Use a good tuner and once you get through all six strings, go back and check the tuning again. Changing into an alternate tuning like Open D Tuning changes the tension on the neck, so you may need to make a few adjustments in tuning as the guitar neck settles to the new tension.
If you enjoy playing in Open D tuning and want to keep your guitar in Open D, you may want to consider using a slightly heavier gauge set of strings. The lower tuning loosens the strings, so to overcome this, use a heavier set.
The lower string tension may also reduce the action height on your guitar. This might be good or bad, depending on your playing style. If you start to notice buzzing as you play, you may need to adjust the action height. Check out this guide to learn more about action height.
Open D Tuning Chords
What makes open tunings like Open D fun to play is how easy some chord shapes are. You can play full chords with one finger, or you can slide back and forth between chords with a guitar slide.
Major chords in Open D Tuning
Here is how you play Major chords in Open D tuning:
This is why Open D is such a fun tuning – you can easily play any major chord with one finger.
Simply move your first finger up or down the fretboard. The note on the sixth string will tell you what chord you are playing (eg: 5th fret on the sixth string is G, so the chord would be G Major).
If you have already memorized the notes on the D string in standard tuning, then you’ll find it easy to remember the notes on the sixth string (also tuned to D).
If you’re playing with a guitar slide, this is great fun to play around with. Find out how to play with a guitar slide in this lesson.
Minor chords in Open D Tuning
While Major chords are simple in Open D, there are still a few easy chord shapes for minor chords. Here are a few examples of minor chord shapes in Open D tuning:
The Em and F#m examples are moveable shapes, so you can use these two shapes to play any minor chord you want in Open D tuning. The bottom note in each chord shape is the root note, so simply line up the chord shape to match the root note you want.
For example, if you want to play F minor, take the E minor chord shape and move it up one fret.
Seventh chords in Open D Tuning
To play a seventh chord in Open D tuning, simply start with the Major chord shape and raise the second string by three frets as shown below:
If you use your first finger to bar across the fret, use your fourth finger to play the high note. Now you can move the chord shape up or down to play any seventh chord you want.
Sus2 and Sus4 chord shapes in Open D Tuning
Here are two easy moveable chord shapes for suspended chords in Open D tuning:
It should be clear by now how useful barre chords are in Open tunings. If you’re not confident with playing barre chords, I recommend working on them so you can get the most out of an open tuning like Open D.
Open chords in Open D Tuning
Here are some other easy chord shapes for Open D Tuning. Try coming up with chord progressions using a combination of the below chords and the chords covered above.
Some of the above chord shapes are moveable, while others aren’t. Once you feel comfortable with the note positions in Open D tuning, you can gradually figure out new chord shapes to use.
Open D Tuning Chords PDF
Here is a printable PDF with all of the above chord shapes in Open D Tuning.
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Open D Tuning Scales
If you enjoy strumming chords in Open D Tuning, learning the note positions on the fretboard will allow you to also start playing licks and riffs.
Read through this lesson for the best methods to memorize the fretboard. While the lesson talks about memorizing the notes with standard tuning, the same methods can be used with open tunings.
Here are the notes of the C Major scale in Open D Tuning:
This is an easy tuning to memorize if you already know the notes in standard tuning because you will already know the note positions on the A and D strings.
All you need to do is learn the note positions on the F# string (just mentally shift everything on that string up one fret) and get used to the order of the strings.
If this is the first time you’ve tried to memorize an alternate tuning, you might be surprised by how quickly you can memorize it. The repeated strings make the job quick and easy.
Open D tuning is clearly based on the D Major chord, so it’s a perfect fit for the D Major scale. Here are the notes in the D Major scale in Open D Tuning:
It should be no surprise that a lot of songs written in Open D Tuning use the D Major scale. So memorizing the note positions in D Major is worth the effort.
This scale also makes it clear which chords you can easily combine in chord progressions. Try coming up with a chord progression using the chord shapes from earlier and if all of the notes match the above scale, you’ll be writing the chord progression in the key of D.
Open D Tuning Songs
While it’s fun to strum with some chord shapes, you can only really learn what makes open tuning special by learning songs.
There are countless songs in Open D tuning. For an easy starting point, try playing the below songs in Open D tuning.
Even Flow by Pearl Jam
Even Flow is a great example of how opening tunings aren’t just for strumming acoustic ballads. You can use an open tuning to create some hard-hitting riffs and Even Flow makes great use of the open tuning.
This below riff uses a distorted electric guitar in Open D tuning. Listen to the song to get an idea of the rhythm and focus on your timing.
The chorus in the song makes good use of simple chords possible in Open D as you can see below:
Check out the song Oceans on the same album for another Pearl Jam song in Open D tuning.
The Cave by Mumford & Sons
If you’re looking for an easy song to feel comfortable with Open D tuning, The Cave is as easy as it can get.
The song makes good use of the easy open chords possible in Open D tuning and uses a very basic strumming pattern.
This song is played with a Capo on the 2nd fret.
Here’s the intro riff to The Cave:
Here’s the next section of the song that uses some simple chords and a very easy strumming pattern:
For more Mumford & Sons songs in Open D tuning, check out Awake My Soul and Roll Away Your Stone.
More Songs in Open D Tuning
Here are some popular songs in Open D tuning:
- The Gardener by The Tallest Man on Earth
- The Cave by Mumford & Sons
- Even Flow by Pearl Jam
- Thunder by Boys Like Girls
- Dust My Broom by Elmore James
- Re:Stacks by Bon Iver
- Street Fighting Man by The Rolling Stones
- Sometimes by My Bloody Valentine
- Ghost of Perdition by Opeth
- Over Now by Alice in Chains
- Ghost of Days Gone By by Alter Bridge
To learn about other alternate tunings, check out my Ultimate Guide to Alternate Tunings here.
Here are some other open tunings to try out:
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